Readers Mary and Annie tell me that the Creekside at 4444 Hollister Avenue in Noleta has been bought by the owner of The Neighborhood Bar and Grill, in Santa Barbara. I am told that Creekside will become a BBQ restaurant. I have not received confirmation of this.



Readers Tom, Annie let me know that the official name of the burger restaurant replacing Mexican Fresh Taqueria at 315 Meigs Road is Mesa Burger. I was sent the following description of the business:

“Mesa Burger is your neighborhood burger joint, reflecting all of the casual goodness that is our community. A place to enjoy a quality meal with the family, meet friends for a laugh, or just relax on your own with the tastiest burger in town. The kids can order off of the kids’ menu and enjoy a shake. You can have a salad and a glass of wine or a burger and a beer. Enjoy Mesa Burger whether it’s lunch, after school snack, after surf grubbin’, family night out, an easy dinner with your honey, after practice or celebrating a game.”






In January 2015 chef Sandy Gendel, who owns farm-to-table Italian restaurant Pace in Laurel Canyon, announced in the Montecito Journal that Pace would be opening a second location at 108 Pierpont Road in Summerland, the former home of The Big Yellow House. With no construction happening since then, and a for-lease sign now visible in the window, it’s time to face that Pace won’t win the race to open in this place. What a disgrace!




Reader Annie sent me a tip that Wahoo’s Fish Taco is no longer listed as a tenant on the web site for Hollister Village Plaza, 7000 Hollister Avenue. I’m also told that the “Wahoos coming soon” sign is no longer in the window of the place they were to occupy.

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Reader Don informed me that Santa Ynez Burrito has opened at 956 Embarcadero Del Norte in Isla Vista, the former home of Kogilicious (2015), Korean BBQ House (2010), Sushilicious (2010), and Berrilicious (2009). Another Santa Ynez Burrito, under different ownership, is located at 1051 Edison Street in Santa Ynez. Hours are 10 a.m.-3 a.m. Sunday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-4 a.m. Friday-Saturday. Call 324-4824.

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Reader Sean says that Eleven Wine Lounge just opened at 3640 Sagunto Street in Santa Ynez, across from Maverick Saloon. Visit

Photo by reader Sean



Reader Annie sent word that Blue Owl at 5 West Canon Perdido Street will start serving dinner on April 7th. Here is a message from their web site:

“Finally, a place to go between lunch at the Blue Owl and Late Night at the Blue Owl- dinner at the Blue Owl! Join us for a very special evening this coming First Thursday for the launch of our new dinner menu. There will be live music, craft beer, specialty cocktails, delicious wine, sexy people, and of course items from the new dinner menu itself.”

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Reader Cris let me know that HiWI Tropical Fusion restaurant is coming to 6555 Pardall Road in Isla Vista in June. The menu includes Shredded pork tacos with pineapple salsa topped with Gochujang aioli, Torikatsu chicken breast battered in Hawaiian potato chips, Tuna poke on white rice or quinoa with a side of seaweed salad, and Spam and egg sandwich with Hawaiian bread. Visit Their web site is basically empty so visit their twitter page has more info:

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Reader Barbary tells me that Brigitte Guehr, owner of Brigitte restaurant at 1325 State Street (since closed, now Opal), is opening a new place named The Nook in the Funk Zone. I don’t if The Nook will offer food or wine or both or neither.



Smart & Final Extra! has opened in Carpinteria, moving into the former home of Vons at 850 Linden Avenue. Rumor has it that the space actually became a Haggen market for about 3 seconds but it closed before anyone could confirm.



This just in from reader Brendan:

L’s Kitchen in the Funk Zone has closed. Not sure this was ever actually listed in your guide. It was a kitchen run by a catering business, but also was open on the weekdays as an eatery serving baked goods, breakfast and lunch.  A review on Yelp, apparently posted by the owner, says ‘Due to huge rent increase, L’s Kitchen is closing.’”

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The Montecito Café, inside the Montecito Inn at 1295 Coast Village Road, is open for business as usual. The restaurant is frequently voted Best Montecito Restaurant in the Santa Barbara Independent readers’ poll. Unfortunately for Montecito Café fans the restaurant plans to close in November, and on December 1st the space becomes available for lease. As a replacement for Montecito Café the owners will soon be opening Jane restaurant in Camino Real Marketplace in Goleta. Another Jane restaurant opened downtown at 1311 State Street in November 2008.

Liam Murphy at Hayes Commercial Group offers the following description of the property:

“This unique restaurant space is located within the iconic Montecito Inn, a renowned landmark that anchors the east end of Coast Village Road at one of Montecito’s most traveled intersections. The prestige of Coast Village Road and the popularity of the hotel present a rare opportunity to create a successful restaurant and bar for both hotel guests and locals who share a passion for quality dining experiences.

The restaurant and bar are positioned at the entrance to the hotel for maximum visibility, steps from complimentary valet parking. Extensive windows line the space to entice passersby and allow patrons to enjoy the ambience of Coast Village Road. The architectural features of the historic hotel are drawn into the space.”

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Photos by The Restaurant Guy



Is “protein” the new, politically-correct term for “meat”?

Hi John-

I’ve appreciated your weekly column in the Independent for years. Last week, though, I noticed a questionable trend in your writing style: you twice used the word “protein” as a euphemism for “meat.”

The food industry has determined that “meat” has too many negative connotations and has initiated a big push to use “protein” in its stead. Here’s a great story from an establishment source:

The problem, as with most euphemisms, is the degradation of the English language. As you likely already know, there is more protein in many vegetables than there is in meat. Using the euphemism promotes the inaccurate view that it is imperative to eat meat in order to include sufficient protein in one’s diet.

I hope that you find this comment constructive.

Best regards,



160318-los-agaves - CopyLos Agaves Restaurant has announced that they have been ranked #16 on Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S. for 2016. Los Agaves is the only restaurant in Santa Barbara to make the list, up from #64 last year. Yelp analyzed over 10 years of restaurant reviews, comparing restaurants on a nationwide basis, and Yelp’s list of Top 100 Places to Eat in the US for 2016 honors businesses that rank so highly in the Yelp community’s opinion that they have earned the status of “must try within this lifetime.”

“We are very happy and honored to be recognized by our valued customers in Yelp’s community who share their dining experiences with great compliments and photos,” said YELP LOGOCarlos Luna, owner of Los Agaves. “We have customers come in from all over the world showing a picture from Yelp of what they want to order. We work really hard to earn a great reputation, and pride ourselves with offering a unique menu with fresh, new items daily. We look forward to continuing to celebrate the flavors of Mexico for our loyal customers for many years to come.” Family owned and operated, Carlos Luna opened his first location on Milpas Street on Santa Barbara’s East Side in 2008. Los Agaves quickly gained fame taking the title as “Best Mexican Restaurant” and “Best Salsa” in 2013, 2014, and 2015 from the Santa Barbara News-Press and Santa Barbara Independent.

My wife and I ate at Los Agaves in Camino Real Marketplace recently and really enjoyed our dinner. I ordered Fajitas del Mar (left) and she ordered Camarones a la Diabla (right) along with the Quesadilla and Homemade Flan.

los agaves

About Los Agaves: Signature dishes include Molcajetes, Chiles Norteños, Enchiladas Guadalajara, and Fajitas del Mar, among many more. All dishes are prepared fresh daily with the highest quality of ingredients, handmade salsas and tortillas. Owner Carlos Luna opened Los Agaves in Santa Barbara on Milpas Street in August 2008. After a successful five years of business, Luna opened his second Santa Barbara location on De La Vina Street in August 2013, and opened Goleta at the Camino Real Shopping Center in October 2014. The fourth location at the Shoppes at Westlake opened in Summer 2015. All locations are open for lunch and dinner daily, Monday through Friday from 11:00 am – 9:00 pm, and breakfast Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 am – 9:00 pm at Milpas and Goleta locations. Catering services available upon request. Locations: 600 North Milpas Street (805) 564-2626, 2911; De La Vina Street (805) 682-2600; 7024 Market Place Drive (805) 968-4000, and 30750 Russell Ranch Road, Westlake Village (805) 874-0779.



This just in from owner Brian Parks:

Hi John,

Mark Twain once wrote, “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”  This goes doubly so for Georgia’s Smokehouse since we announced that they were up for sale in October but we have not slowed down our day-to-day food service operations.  It’s business as usual for us.  We’re still making our usual stops, doing our normal family style drop offs and handling all the usual catering events. Some people thought we were closing down the business but we haven’t!

In order to maximize the efficiency of the business, we’ve reviewed our business model to make the most of the time invested in the operation. The goal this year is to increase our focus on corporate events, private catering and our online lunch program.

One of the most important things we’re doing is getting my wife, Alissa, re-involved with the business.  She stepped out of the day-to-day marketing and sales role about 18 months ago when we started our family by taking placement of a foster child. The good news is that it resulted in the adoption of our son.  This has brought us incredible joy and satisfaction but the business really felt the absence a strong sales presence. Alissa will focus on corporate sales and event coordination and we’re both excited she’s back on board.

Bottom line is Georgia’s Smokehouse is alive and well, still delivering mouthwatering, gourmet BBQ via the truck as well as catering and family style delivery.  So whether it’s a wedding, rehearsal dinner, a corporate event or a family get-together, Georgia’s is ready to bring you our wide variety of delicious treats.

Brian Parks
Georgia’s Smokehouse
Web –
Facebook –
Twitter – @georgiastruck
Instagram – @georgiastruck




opal-1Reader Primetime let me know that two Santa Barbara Police causes will benefit from your lunch meals this month at Opal restaurant, 1325 State Street.  The owners are donating 10 percent of the profits to the Police Activities League and the Police Foundation. Richard Yates says the police are part of our community and need strong support. The Police Foundation assists officers with personal needs mainly in a crisis, beyond what is already available.

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This just in from Book Ends Cafe at 602 Anacapa Street:

Hi John,

We wanted to let you know that, sadly, we have had to close our cafe, Book Ends Cafe.

We had been planning to close later in the year, once we had found a space for a full service restaurant.  However, we lost the use of our kitchen in the Funk Zone due to a change of ownership and are now taking a break and recipe testing before opening a new restaurant somewhere either in Downtown Santa Barbara or in the Funk Zone later this year/early next year.

As yet, we can’t say much about the new venture but, you can be assured, we will continue serving only all organic and sustainably farmed meats and sourcing our produce from the local farmers markets.  With our own kitchen on site, we will be considerably expanding our menu and adding quality beers and wines too.

Updates will be announced both on Book Ends Cafe’s facebook page or on our website,

Many thanks and kind regards,
Dominic & Carmen

Book Ends Cafe opened in July 2013.




Cafe154CR-wrReader JMax let me know that Cafe 154 at 4151 Foothill Road (at the corner of Route 154) is closing at the end of the month. I called the business and confirmed that March 30th is their last day. Café 154 opened in September 2014.



mexican-fresh-1Reader DDHug let me know that Mexican Fresh Taqueria at 315 Meigs Road on the Mesa has closed. I called neighboring businesses and they confirmed the news. Word on the street is that the owner is partnering with someone else and will reopen as a burger place.



frescocafenorth-1This just in from reader Justin:

“Saw a huge Marmalade Cafe sign being unloaded today in Goleta at the old home of The Fig Grill, 5940 Calle Real. No idea as to if that’s what is going in there. “

Reader Jennifer reported seeing activity at that address in February. Before it was The Fig Grill the building was the home of Fresco Cafe North, Giovanni’s, Appethai, and Heidi’s Pies.



greek-house-cafe-1Reader Steve H tells me that the popular rice bowl & boba tea restaurant Hana Kitchen in Isla Vista has opened a second location at 5 West Haley Street, the former home of Tacos El Rey, Magic Pita Cafe, and  Greek House Cafe. I know it is popular because I live near Isla Vista and frequently pass through the college town. Hana Kitchen at 6558 Pardall Road is always packed. In addition to a variety of boba tea drinks Hana Kitchen offers a three rice bowls:

  • Chicken Rice Bowl with fresh grilled chicken leg meat over a bed of white Calrose rice, lightly stir-fried vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, and carrots). Served with made-from-scratch teriyaki sauce.
  • Beef Rice Bowl with traditional Japanese style beef, thinly sliced and marinated in house sukiyaki sauce. Served over a bed of white Calrose rice and lightly stir-fried vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, and carrots). Marinade contains onions and white wine.
  • Vegan Chicken Rice Bowl which includes soy-based vegan chicken over a bed of white Calrose rice, lightly stir-fried vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, and carrots). Served with made-from-scratch teriyaki sauce.




pita-pit-1Reader Eric tells me he dined at Fire & Ice Cafe that opened recently at 971 Embarcadero del Mar in Isla Vista, the former home of Pita Pit. The business is a coffee shop, smooth & juice bar and Internet cafe and describes itself as follows: “Our Mission is to provide the best boba drinks, freshest boba pearls, brewed with real tea leaves, and no chalky powders.” Hours are Monday-Thursday 3 p.m.-midnight, Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-midnight. Visit

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160310-pieology2xReaders Cris and Annie passed word that a new pizza place named Pieology has signed up to be a tenant in Hollister Village Plaza at 7000 Hollister Avenue in Goleta, joining current and future tenants Smart & Final Extra!, Sno-Crave, Zizzo’s Coffee, Dickey’s BBQ Pit, Pickles & Swiss, and Wahoo’s Fish Tacos. Pieology, which has 102 locations across the U.S., offers more than 30 different topping choices at a fixed price which results in hundreds of pizza combinations that can be custom-made for each customer. Menu options include sauces such as herb butter, red sauce or olive oil as well as a variety of cheese choices including mozzarella, parmesan or gorgonzola. Toppings include a range for meats such as chicken, sausage or meatball to a variety of vegetables or unique items like jalapeno or pineapple. Pieology also offers “after bakes” that can be added after the pizza such as roasted red peppers, dollops of red sauce or pesto. Gluten-free crust is also available. Visit



taco-bell-north-fairview-1Readers Rachel, Cris, Matt, KD and Annie tell me that the wrecking ball swung down and smashed to pieces the structure that was Taco Bell at 140 North Fairview Avenue in Goleta. The building will be replaced with the standard Taco Bell design rather than the square-UFO motif.



vons-deli-turnpike-1Readers Barry and Annie let me know Vons has reopened at 163 South Turnpike Road in Goleta, putting an end to the failed experiment that was Haggen.

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chefRestaurateur Larry Mindel and Chef Peter McNee will be opening Convivo restaurant and bar this spring at the newly remodeled Santa Barbara Inn, 901 East Cabrillo Boulevard. Convivo, whose name means ‘to come together’ and is the root word for the Latin term for ‘feast.’ McNee describes his style of food for Convivo as ‘Nomad Italian.’ “The foundation – our soul – is Italian but our destination is Santa Barbara and the menu draws from different styles and traditions along the way,” said McNee. His menu will feature cicchetti (small plates served in bite size portions), shareable antipasti, house-made pasta, wood-fired pizza and a bounty of seafood and meats roasted over a wood fire. Many dishes are served family-style and everything can be shared. “Great meals are ones shared with friends and family. Conviviality is a central theme of the restaurant and the seasonally changing menu,” said McNee.

A full bar featuring craft cocktails and local brewers will anchor the 62-seat restaurant. A brick outdoor patio offers al fresco dining with a view of the Channel Islands. An extensive wine list including wines on tap will draw primarily from the Santa Barbara AVA. Located just steps from the ocean, Convivo will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at the 70-room Santa Barbara Inn and provide catering services for the 80-seat banquet room. “Santa Barbara’s bounty of ingredients rivals that of the Bay Area,” said McNee. “It’s a special place, rich with wonderful artists, small independent farmers, ranchers, fisherman and vintners. You don’t have to go farther than the Santa Barbara farmers’ market to see why I’m excited about opening Convivo. This community of artisans is a big reason my wife and I want to live in Santa Barbara and raise our young son here.”

After graduating college, McNee left his home state of Minnesota for California to pursue a career as a chef in San Francisco. While attending culinary school he worked at famed Stars and later at Tra Vigne in Napa Valley. Not satisfied with his stateside teachings, Peter embarked on a yearlong culinary pilgrimage to Italy to cook with the ‘nonna.’ While living with host families, cooking and traveling throughout the country, he fell in love with Italian food and culture. Returning to the Bay Area, he was drawn to iconic restaurateur Larry Mindel, the founder of Il Fornaio restaurants, and his shared passion for Italy. As Executive Chef at Poggio, McNee and owner Mindel formed a lasting friendship and partnership. The restaurant has earned multiple 3-star reviews from the San Francisco Chronicle and placement within the coveted “Top 100 Restaurants in the Bay Area” rankings each year since 2008. Poggio recently was included in the 2016 Michelin Bib Gourmand list for the San Francisco bay area.

Santa Barbara Inn owner Richard Gunner and Mindel opened an Il Fornaio restaurant together some twenty years ago at the Pine Inn in Carmel. “When Richard showed me what he and his family were building along the Santa Barbara waterfront,” Mindel stated, “I knew I wanted to be part of this beautiful property and I knew exactly who my partner would be.”

Chef McNee was Mindel’s one and only choice to helm the kitchen at Convivo. Mindel and McNee envision Convivo as a gathering place where fellow Santa Barbarians and guests from around the world can do just that – come together to catch up on life, grab a drink and share a meal while watching the sunset. As Mindel puts it, “The really great restaurants are both a destination for the weary traveler and a place for locals to meet and unwind.”



This just in from reader Jennifer:

Hi John -

Yesterday, I noticed some patio work being done in the location where The Fig Grill (old Fresco Goleta) used to be…and the for rent sign is now gone. Any update on what’s going in there? It’s so exciting to see all the new places opening up here in Goleta!


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North and South American/Asian fusion restaurant Yankee Noodle has opened at 214 State Street, the former home of Union Ale, offering a variety of Ramen bowls and more. “It’s North American and South American,” says owner Matthew Jameson-Chrestenson. “We are playing off of places like Mexico, offering tacos, quesadillas, in a fusion style. Then for Asian we’re doing Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, and Mongolian. We’re kind of mixing them all together.”

The main menu includes Base Ramen Bowl with rich savory pork broth served with fresh made noodles, Chashu (pork), Fishcake and Scallion. Optional Ramen additions include extra Chashu, Bean Sprout, Fresh Corn, Fried Tempura Bits, Fried Egg, Mixed Mushroom, Perfect Egg, Curry Paste, Miso Butter, Garlic Bamboo, Crispy Bacon, Chinese Broccoli, and Bak Choy.

The cold menu includes Edamame with Shishito and XI’AN Ceviche, while the hot menu offers Fried Chorizo Dumplings with Kimchi Nachos, Kalifonia Mushroom Wontons in Spicy Peanut Sauce, Crispy Fried Honey Sesame Shrimp, and Umami Fresh Corn Off The Cob.

The Pushcart Eats menu lists Spicy Dan Dan Three Cheese Beef with Pork Mazeman Ramen, and Nam Nam Smashed Meatball Lamb Burger. For the Lam Burger you choose your style (Rice Bowl, Seoul City Tacos, Kimchi Quesadilla, or Beijing Drunk Burrito) then you choose your protein (Short Rib, Pork Belly or Chicken). Call 845-8243 or visit




This just in from Finch & Fork restaurant, 31 West Carrillo Street:

ReneClementeRene Clemente has been appointed Director of Food and Beverage at Finch & Fork Restaurant

Santa Barbara, Calif.— Finch & Fork, the bustling corner eatery in downtown Santa Barbara, has appointed industry veteran, Rene Clemente, as its new Director of Food and Beverage. With an extensive background in hospitality, Rene brings more than 11 years of experience with some of the finest restaurants and hotels across the country. In his role at Finch & Fork, Rene will oversee all food and beverage operations of the restaurant and Canary Santa Barbara.

Prior to joining Finch & Fork, Rene served as F&B Director at Colorado’s Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa. His previous roles include Director of Banquets at the 5 Diamond St. Regis in Atlanta, and F&B Manager at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel where the team ranked #1 in the company.

“Finch & Fork and Canary Santa Barbara cater to a variety of clientele, from intimate dinners and beautiful weddings, to tasteful private events,” said Rene. “I’m looking forward to working with the talented culinary and events team here to deliver an excellent guest experience set to the highest of standards.”

Rene was born and raised in Manila, Philippines. When he isn’t busy maintaining the level of service and reputation Finch & Fork and Canary Santa Barbara are known for, Rene can be found spending time with his wife Katie, son Gavin and adorable cocker spaniel Sadie.

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